Twelve-year-old Boy Scout Jared Ropelato had a rough weekend. He got lost during a Utah wilderness campout, and had to spend the night outside alone, wearing only jeans and a t-shirt, as temperatures dipped into the low 30s. Ropelato built a lean-to shelter out of tree branches and sticks to get through the cold night, and he covered himself in duff and dirt to stay warm.
The Scout got separated from the rest of his troop while hiking on Friday, August 12. The search for him began at noon that day. While he was lost, Jared ran headlong into a bull moose, and he also fell into a river. He was found Saturday morning at 8:40 a.m. in good health, more than twenty hours after his ordeal began.
Jared told the Deseret News of Salt Lake City that he had learned to build the structure last year at Scout Camp. He also remembered the survival info in the Boy Scout manual, which advises scouts to build a shelter and stay put if they become lost. The shelter kept him warm enough to get some sleep while the overnight low in Utah’s Ashley National Forest dipped to 31 degrees, according to the Daggett County Sheriff’s Department.
So what went wrong?
Hiking alone can be very dangerous for anyone, at any age. Jared’s scoutmaster had advised him to find a “buddy” to hike with, but Jared ended up trekking out on his own.
Being solo wasn’t the worst of his troubles. The boy was wearing only jeans and a shirt, and any outdoorsman knows that wet cotton will freeze you. Jared also had no food, water, matches or signaling equipment.
What went right?
The young man had obviously done his homework to learn some survival skills. Seven to twelve-year-olds tend to be very vulnerable in wilderness emergencies. They often know just enough to get into trouble, but not how to get out of it. Jared did the right things by making shelter, insulating himself and not traveling at night.
And don’t think one night alone in the wild is going to deter this young man from continuing to enjoy the outdoors. When asked by a newspaper reporter if he would still go camping after this, Jared simply said, “Yeah.”